Acupuncture is a traditional and holistic medicine that began in Eurasia. It uses small needles to effect change in the body. As anything, the long history of acupuncture (TCM) and herbal medicine is filled with many twists and fascinating developments. For ourselves and many like minded colleagues we focus on the modern insights and applications of these time tested therapies. Yet our goal is integration. We primarily utilize methods supported by current research which target pain and the musculosketal body (muscles, fascia, nerves, conductivity, etc.). We then use herbal medicines to supplement. Investigations have proven acupuncture to be effective for pain, stress and a variety of chronic issues such as digestive disorders. The World Health Organization and many nationalized programs around the globe support its use. Most recently the American Medical Association has (finally!) acknowledged acupuncture fantastic for back pain--while also grudgingly admitting that their methods, including opioids and surgery, have not been very successful.
Ongoing research continues to demonstrate the various ways these needling procedures work scientifically, thereby opening more doors into the medical community and mainstream medicine. In some respects it need not be so complicated! If you have ever rubbed a sore spot on your arm in a very simplistic sense you demonstrate some of acupuncture's efficacy.
Acupuncture has completely changed medicine. The establishment continues trying to rid itself of it yet patients keep getting results. For example, acupuncture is the inspiration for trigger point therapy or "dry needling" practiced by PTs, Chiropractors and MDs alike. (There is an 80+% correlation to ancient acupuncture points and modern trigger points.) Acupuncture is also the forerunner to an interconnected myofascial comprehension of the human structure, an understanding that is infiltrating many levels of "mainstream" medicine, which is the bedrock of our own proprietary F.A.S.T. Therapy. There has been complete dissections and removal of human fascia. This webwork of connective tissue, stretching over joints throughout the whole body, from head to toe in continuous sheaths, uncannily mimics traditional meridian pathways. Acupuncture points follow fascial planes and neuromuscular junctions. It is not the full answer. But it is an amazing development.
Does it hurt?
*PLEASE INQUIRE INTO OUR NO-NEEDLE THERAPIES. This can include electrical stimulation, acu-pressure and feedback devices.
Acupuncture modulates the nervous system. To that end it is possible to utilize other tools to initiate a therapeutic response. However, usually an acupuncture needle is still the first, best option. Most people quite normally do not like the idea of something poking them! But most picture a sharp and wide phlebotomy needle or syringe, like at a hospital. When they think of acupuncture, then, they are not only thinking of a metal type object--that draws blood!--but they also probably have a memory of being in a hospital. That is usually an uncomfortable memory. While some needles are thicker or longer than others, traditional acupuncture needles are not only extremely small but they are not usually stiff like a hospital needle. They bend and give. You can feel them a little bit but it is most often like a small pinch. Most people once they are familiar with the experience do not think acupuncture is even uncomfortable.
We do have some very effective therapies that require bigger and or longer needles. Yet some of these are done at the very superficial level where there are few nerves to feel much of anything. Others, while perhaps sometimes uncomfortable, are usually used when the pain is already far worse and the the relief afterwards is even better. Most needles for most things feel inconsequential. For all therapies our goal is to be as painless as possible. Many times there is little sensation. We prep or massage the area or use heat or ice packs or TENS electrical stimulation beforehand and or afterwards. We can use some topical analgesics. We let you know what is going on until you get comfortable.
How does it work?
Traditional healers knew nothing about nerves or electrical conductivity or neurotransmitters yet acupuncture works in all such ways. The old Masters called these "activities" qi and it has several meanings in Chinese pictographs, which is fitting; acupuncture works in various ways. It can loosen muscles. It can decrease pain. It can increase circulation. It can increase immunity. Our bodies are extremely interconnected. All of our organs and muscles and bones developed out of the same basic stuff, embryologically. They are all intimate friends. The more time goes on the more we are learn about these connections and friendships; how they are tied to each other, how to "talk" to one to get the other to do something. We also learn, always, that there is still a LOT to learn.
When needles are put into certain specific points they can induce calm or reduce nausea, to list a few effects. They do this in large part by triggering the body's innate ability, whether via nerves or hormones or both. This activity communicates along energetic channels internally. These "channels" or avenues themselves may be in poor health or blocked, or at minimum may indicate internal dysfunction which we address externally.
Here is an interesting article discussing traditional acupuncture meridians as they are being understood today, and about the "fascia," which we are learning has fare more profound functions than Western medicine has acknowledged thus far, and which correlates to Traditional Chinese Medicine as never before. Be it noted: we still do not understand fully why acupuncture works for a number of internal conditions. From a physical medicine standpoint, however, for muscles and tissues, it is very straightforward. It is a very exciting time to be an acupuncturist: Fascia as a neuro-endocrine organ.
Acupuncture is not a cure all. From our perspective, and given the growing and aging population and our relative lack of success in addressing pain and chronic issues, it behooves us to focus almost exclusively on that need: to treat bodily pain first and foremost. We are not aiming to replace your family MD or your hospital or whomever cares for you. We are just part of the puzzle. With proper therapy you will be happier and feel better and so will not be needing to have as many check-ups and prescription refills--especially for the typical back aches, coughs, stomach pains, sleep issues, etc. We can assist.
Like any medicine, some people find treatments less effective for them at times. This could be due to infrequent or missed treatments or inconsistent herbal supplementation. Sometimes the same issue comes back and this might be due to occupational hazards: stress, busy work schedule, poor shoes. At such moments it is important for all of us to reassess the situation together, and we will. Occasionally some individuals are not quite as receptive to pain reduction. Yet most people will see improvements. Think of acupuncture like a paperclip used to depress the small button on the back of your router: a tool for rebooting, trouble shooting.
Acupuncture is the de-facto name of our field as well as the name of our primary method and tool, so it can be confusing to some when they learn that in addition to our small needles we use herbs, sports tape, electricity, etc. Acupuncturists are trained in traditional Chinese methods of nutrition, herbal applications and body work techniques in addition to being trained in western styled assessments. Acupuncturists in many states are considered primary care providers and doctors. Nationally, all acupuncture graduate programs have moved towards professional doctorates for the terminal degree in the field. Obviously acupuncture is not just needles, especially in our clinic where we offer naturopathic therapies, nutritional guidance, postural and weight analysis as well as medications. Within our clinical practice we focus primarily on your physical pain and acupuncture remains our core tool--it is just not our only tool. We want to help you walk further, to make your back feel more loose, to assist the swelling in your elbow, reduce inflammation. You may not come to see us for the flu or a broken arm. Your MD does a great job for all of that and we will not ever replace your family doctor for those extreme issues, as we have mentioned. But we will help you to not see him/her as often for the day to day issues: allergies, sore neck, constipation, etc. We could help that broken arm recover faster, reduce scar tissue. Most of the ailments affecting our society have to do with three partners in crime: low mobility, incomplete nutrition and excess stress. Acupuncture is uniquely situated to assist with all this.
Acupuncture is very safe. It is not without risk but on the whole you are unlikely to receive any serious injury, either with needles, herbal therapies or body work. Acupuncture exposes patients to fewer dangers than with care received in big box medical settings, such as incorrect surgical procedures, adverse pharmaceutical events, and so on. This is not to disparage one from going to the hospital or other provider but to put such concerns in context. However, all needles carry the risk of some occasional bleeding or bruising or possible infection. It is technically possible to receive a pneumothorax via acupuncture needle, but extremely uncommon. Needles can aggravate or damage nerves if utilized incorrectly, but this is also unusual. One can feel dizzy or nauseous during needling or after. One should always proceed with caution while pregnant.
Herbs are very natural, whole products. This does NOT mean they should be used exactly like food--or candy. Many natural things are bad for you! We take herbal medicines extremely seriously and expect patients to do the same. However, unlike allopathic pharmaceuticals, the ingredients of traditional herbal remedies are not broken down to just the active or concentrated elements; they are more naturally occurring plant and animal parts. Within the herbal pharmacopeia, while we can more or less concentrate the active potentials, this is still not usually nearly as potent as those drugs fabricated in labs. As a consequence, while herbs can often act a little more slowly they also are typically far less dangerous. Save the potent and riskier drugs, with all their side effects, for where they belong: emergencies, extremes. Your body will thank you for it. Furthermore, traditional herbal formulas are designed with several components; one plant may be included to negate the less pleasant qualities of the other constituents. They act in concert and classic acupuncture formulas have been refined for thousands of years: the longest human trials in history! We use herbal medicinal companies with strict regulatory practices and quality controls. We have visited personally with their leadership and toured their facilities, abroad and in Austin. Not only do they double check their herbal inventory and supply chains but they re-check their own internal administration of them.
When should I use herbs?
We have herbal opportunities not only for adults, but a special line for kids--and even pets! We recommend that all patients take either a supplement or a multi-vitamin or an herbal formula for their constitution. We live in a fast paced world that is a little less clean and that harbors some powerful microbes and which nurtures somewhat less potent food components than the past. We believe supplementing is a necessary and helpful practice and we can help you get started. When it comes to taking herbs for specific issues (in our clinic this usually means for pain, bruising, muscle strains, headaches, etc.) we also strongly suggest that all of our patients use supporting herbal products. They add to the needle therapy. They fill in the gaps between treatments (very few people will be able to get treated the multiple times a week for a new injury, as is recommended). They address chronic maladies. They help you recover faster. Herbs do not replace all prescriptions from your doctor nor even some over the counter (OTC) medications. We too keep anti-inflammatories and and other pills in the cabinet. They are great tools. We all need options. Yet almost all such medicines quickly and temporarily address overt symptoms. They solve little for ongoing issues. They are potent, even if purchased at the local grocery store (just look into the recent back-tracking of the medical community about the serious misuse of acetaminophen, by lay people and professionals alike). They are not meant to be used daily for the long term. They tell you so on every bottle. If you are taking anything so potent all the time, whether via prescription or simply from the corner pharmacy, it is not good for your body and it is not addressing the cause. Herbs can better address the root cause and can usually be taken for longer terms without any of the same issues. Herbs can even help support your body as you take any strong medications. This may in fact be necessary.
What to expect:
Eat something lite 30 minutes before a session. Go to the bathroom beforehand since moving with needles in place can be bothersome! All patients should arrive early by 10-15 minutes. This allows time for paperwork, especially if this is your first visit. We will find you in the lobby or our staff will direct you back when ready. If the appointment has not been paid for online, we will charge you before the session begins.
It is important to wear loose fitting and comfortable clothing. We need to be able to access both the area that hurts and usually the spine. Most of the time shirts will need to be removed (gown provided), but if a tank top or something can be worn this may be avoided. As an example, if you have a sore elbow and forearm, at minimum we need access to both arms and neck, but occasionally will also need to treat your knees. (For postural analysis it is necessary to remove most clothing and or to wear tighter clothing.)
Acupuncture needling feels fun and interesting. People do not like needles but this is NOT like drawing blood! This is very different. We will even let you needle us! It is easy. It is not scary. Sometimes you do not feel anything. Most of the time your feel a little "zing" and or a sensation of heaviness and it goes away. It will depend on the needles used. Most are quite small but either way we can use heat, cold and or electrical stimulation to make it even more comfortable and to increase efficacy. If we need to treat the muscles there may be more of an ache or even a twitch. That is a good thing. Sometimes it is necessary to be a little uncomfortable to start that healing response. When you have had issues for some time, the tissues or muscles are often tighter so sensation can be higher, but this decreases. It is completely normal sometimes for there to be a somewhat stronger feeling and then it subsides. Nothing is going wrong. It is completely normal to feel a little sore sometimes for a day or so in the area treated, particularly for severe issues. There may be bruising, though not typically. Please notify us of any coagulation issues or if you are anemic, or if there is a seizure history.
It is not unusual to feel quite sleepy during and afterwards. This is a good thing. Yet sometimes people fee very energized, particularly when the issue has progressed and improved. The needles cause minuscule changes to tissues as a way of initiating a healing response. This alters you both locally and systemically. It is an expected reaction. Your body is doing its job!
Most people feel very relaxed once the needles are in place. This is called the "needle effect." It generally feels rather calming and sedating. Sometimes you can feel lite headed after sitting up when needles are removed. Always remember to sit for a minute afterwards.
Treatments average about 40 minutes, depending on type. Treatments are only meant to focus on 1 or 2 complaints at a time. We first see you in the assessment area, ask some questions and or do some tests and exams, then walk you to the table when all is ready. For Maintenance Acupuncture--in between new conditions or acute episodes--you will get a fairly standard treatment with no real deep needling, with fewer needles, no e-stim. It is more relaxing and a little less active. In Diagnostic Acupuncture--for new conditions, acute episodes--the treatment will be far more active and participatory. These sessions include ALL modalities, e-stim and nutritional coaching.
Much of the time you will feel some relief that day, but you should expect to have a series of treatments typically for new conditions. Even if the issue progresses in one session to a point that you think you are better, the literature demonstrates that successive treatments on a consistent schedule assist the best long term for recurring problems or pain. We price our therapies accordingly, to enable people to visit more often. We have options. Many of these ailments developed over long periods. Their causes do not completely vanish into thin air even if the symptoms are reduced. Then again, sometimes one trip is all it takes.
As you leave, your herbs will be ready for you. Please take as instructed and contact us immediately if there are any issues. We are always available with need. It is best to not aggravate the area affected after the treatment session. In fact, as a general rule, if you can relax the remainder of the day it is best, but at least abstain from strenuous activities. Like any therapy, hydrating is important after the treatment. You will be given water, tea and or snacks before leaving.
Disclaimer of Liability:
Any details contained herein do not constitute medical advice nor substitute for assessments by professionals in person. Guidance and information within is expressed for educational wellness purposes. If this is an emergency consult a physician or dial 911.